Reopening of schools: the right step, but a “bumpy road” ahead, according to the head of the scientific table

The head of Ontario’s COVID-19 Science Advisory Table thinks reopening schools to in-person learning on Monday is the right step, but warns it could be a “bumpy road” when classes resume.

Speaking on Newstalk 580 CFRA, Dr Peter Juni said the science table had consensus on reopening schools.

“That’s given the damage we’re seeing,” he said. “We’re seeing an increase in eating disorders, we’re seeing anxiety and depression and that’s much more pronounced in the community than what we’re seeing in hospitals.”

Juni said closing schools is often a first step to help control the pandemic, but he says the practice cannot continue.

“It’s really positive and important that we don’t do this anymore,” he said.

However, he warns that it won’t be easy.

“We have to recognize that it will be a bumpy road. We are in the midst of a crisis and it will not be a regular and uninterrupted school experience, but I think it is important that we try now,” he said. declared.

In a letter to families on Friday, the Ottawa-Carleton District School Board warned of the possibility of sudden school closures due to staffing shortages. The Ottawa School Transportation Authority has also warned that school buses could be canceled if drivers fall ill.

“We will do everything possible to keep classes and schools open, but if we cannot operate safely, a class or school may have to switch to remote learning until we can organize appropriate coverage,” the school board said. “If this happens, we will do our best to notify parents the day before. We encourage parents to have contingency plans in place and monitor your email for updates.”

Juni stressed that one of the most important steps families can take is vaccination.

“We can all protect our children and ourselves by getting vaccinated and getting them vaccinated,” he said. “Vaccines continue to help tremendously against serious consequences and three doses in particular. Get your third dose if you are a parent because your child might bring something home and you don’t want to find yourself in the hospital.”

He said he was disappointed to see that the vaccination rate among children aged 5 to 11 has not yet exceeded 50% province-wide.

“It’s really just a missed opportunity. We have to improve,” he said.

In Ottawa, 65% of children aged 5 to 11 receive a dose.

“Carefully optimistic” that the plateau is near

Juni said he’s cautiously optimistic Ontario is approaching a plateau in terms of Omicron, but the winter will still be tough.

“I am cautiously optimistic that we will, relatively soon, reach a plateau with the occupation of our hospitals,” he said. “That doesn’t mean it’s not difficult, it will be extremely difficult, but it does indicate that we may have stabilized the number of cases. Now we just have to look at schools for what they are, the first step in reopening.

He says hospital occupancy continues to rise — there are nearly 4,000 patients in hospitals across the province with COVID-19 — but it’s not growing as quickly as before, and he’s happy. to see that many people are staying at home as much as possible.

“People, even before New Year’s Eve, started doing the right thing, working from home, staying at home more, etc. All of this helps tremendously. It makes me most optimistic,” he said. -he declares. “But after school reopens, we have to be patient. Remember that when we do a stage, we need about two weeks to figure out what that stage actually did because, of course, that will help also to transmission.

He says a little more effort for a little longer can turn that tide around.

“The point here is that we are not helpless,” he said. “We know what to do and we are our own master of our own destiny.”

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